Recently a group of MPs have raised the idea of the four-day working week in Britain, who believe it could be a valuable tool in recovering from the impact of the Coronavirus crisis. The idea came in a letter to the government and was signed by many known MPs including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, SNP’s Mhairi Black. The letter suggested that current Chancellor Rishi Sunak should set up a commission to explore the idea and the benefits it might bring to the country.
The MPs believe that implementing a four-day week will help to protect jobs and even create new ones as the country faces economic difficulty. They also suggest it could improve mental health, wellbeing and productivity. This type of working week has been discussed in other regions too, with New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern considering it to help boost their economy too. What are the palpable benefits of switching to a four-day working week and are there are downsides?
The Advantages of a Four-Day Working Week
The four-day working week has been studied many times, most recently in a New Zealand study. This and other research has found the following advantages:
Working hours being decreased results in an increase in productivity in those hours that are worked. This helps to ensure a better quality of work and means the “lost day” doesn’t result in a loss of output.
Employee satisfaction is significantly boosted as less stress comes from the opportunity to enjoy a better work-life balance. Employees who are happy can engage with their work more effectively as well as working together with more success.
Lower Unemployment Rates
Great for the economy as well as individual businesses, the notion of work-sharing allows companies to form more roles as there are additional times to cover as everyone works their four-day period.
Reduced Carbon Footprints
From an environmental perspective, a four-day working week brings down the carbon footprint of each individual employee as commuting pollution is reduced.
Lower Overheads for Employers
If you operate a business which allows you to close for a full day a week, the overheads for your business are slashed by 20%. This can be significant when you think of utility costs.
The Disadvantages of the Four-Day Working Week
The issues with the four-day working week have not been documented in as much depth. They mainly centre around risk and overtime. In the first instance, the changes need to implement a four-day week can be costly so if it does not work for your business, it could be a very expensive risk. Similarly, some studies have found workers are required to make up the additional day’s work on the other days, which has to be paid in overtime. This becomes extremely costly overtime and removes one of the key benefits of the change.
Whether the four-day week is likely to come to Britain or not, it is one example of how we could potentially work to boost the economy and help businesses rebuild, but there are many other theories too.